B'rakhot (blessings) are not treated lightly in Judaism. Each blessing's phrasing is specific and designed to enable the speaker to fulfill a mitzvah. The b'rakha creates a partnership between divine decree and physical action and merges the will of God and that of the one making the blessing. With all of this going on (in what is often just a few words) concentration is of the utmost importance. At the same time, there is value in listening to a blessing. One fortunate enough to listen to another’s blessing is often invited to join in blessing God without fulfilling the specific mitzvah of the b’rakha being recited. For example, if I waved the lulav and etrog on Sukkot and then later in the day heard my friend recite the b’rakha over lulav and etrog I wouldn’t join her word for word (I already recited that blessing). I would say, “Blessed is He and Blessed in His Name,” though (and respond, “amen”). Now, if someone is reciting a blessing on my behalf (i.e. the chazzan reciting the blessings over shofar) I must concentrate as if I were reciting it myself. Therefore, I would say “amen” at the end, but I wouldn’t interrupt the blessing with an extra praise of God (i.e. Baruch Hu Uvaruch Shemo).
The main point behind all these details is to stress that people not treat mitzvot or blessings lightly. These b’rakhot are not mere words, they are responses to unique moments or actions in time that may not be repeated again until tomorrow, another month, or another year. The focus on proper concentration and decorum for both the speaker and listener reflects value of the moment…of the Torah…of the Holy One.
Lets discuss and ruminate on this for a few days and then we’ll get into some more of the specifics around “Amein” and “Baruch Hu Uvaruch Shemo.”